Yesterday, Dr. N dropped by for a lunch kibbutz. She had something on her brilliant mind distracting her from her best life. I had the privilege to listen.
Dr. N is one of my favorite people; we laugh like five-year-olds, navigate life with the energy of teenagers, and swap wisdom as if we were old old souls. We have wept together.
She is a full-life friend.
As expected, our brief lunchtime was complete in laughter, energy, wisdom, and tears. After listening for a while and tossing the conversation over the net like old pros, I asked her if she ever felt she allowed people to take advantage of her.
Actually, it was more like this:
“Do you ever feel like you’re investing in unicorns?”
“Yeah, sh*t that don’t exist.”
And then we laughed our lunches up.
Don’t you have those times, those people, and promises you continue to pour life and resources in which – over time – prove to be unfillable ciphers, big zeroes, black holes of grasping and entitlement?
Are we the only ones?
It’s like a farmer who prepares and plows and seeds and protects a field that never produces. The farmer’s work may be brilliant, processes and counsel – outstanding, but if something in that field is poison, none of his/her love, best-practices, and 14-hour days will ever grow a crop.
When I was younger, I thought of some people (myself sometimes, too) as remoras, or sucker-fish. Though capable of strong swimming and navigating on their own, they prefer to catch a free ride off of larger fish and even boats. Once lodged into place, it is not easy to disengage a sucker-fish from its host. Remoras are almost parasitical.
We have remora-people in our lives – amid the kind-hearted and life-giving many – who suck the very life out of us. No amount of love, care, or strategic resources are enough. We are made to feel as if we aren’t enough because they are too damn lazy or foolish to help themselves.
Instead of taking advantage of the opportunities offered, remoras would rather take advantage of the people offering.
And love can keep us entangled in that sort of op-too-much-istic investment past the point where our resources, energy, hope, and well-being are depleted. We become the pack mule bearing the weight of not only our own lives, but these freeloaders of time, energy, and love.
Their mouths are never closed.
Their bellies are never satisfied.
They are the center of a micro universe and we are the drones to keep them firmly ensconced as the sun, moon, and stars.
What we have invested in to be unicorns, eventually reveal themselves as bullies, abusers, jerks, and manipulators. I can be a jerk, but 99% of the time I do not want to leave a slug’s slimy trail of goo and destruction in my wake. Nor do I wish to attempt to serve a gaping maw of demands and coercion. Ack. Hurl that thing forth like the hairball it is!
Unfortunately, family seems to be a good place for these could-be-unicorns to hide.
Brilliant, capable, cogent people who really would rather you do the work for them. Hand me the remote, will you?
No amount of teeing them up and helping them forward activates these enfants terrible towards action or self-care. That’s your job.
You are held accountable for their bad days and hangnails.
Unhappy? Don’t like to be yelled at and treated like the south side of a northbound cow? That’s your fault. Gimme a beer, will you?
Here’s a bit of good news: with derring do and good friends/counsel-towards-life, we can disengage from the remoras – sucking zombies of our living.
And if we recognize our shadow of influence is really a slime trail of whining, selfishness, and self-pity? There is help for that, too.
We can learn to live well. We can unlearn old funk-dog and sucker-fish habits. We can be free to live in healthy community as whole imperfect people.
Have you ever read the book, Farmer Duck, by Martin Wadell and Helen Oxenbury? You can watch a nice British woman reading it right here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaPsefdmXi0. Are you the farmer or the duck?
Dr. N and I continue to call out life and call forth hope in one another. I am fortunate to have her and so many friends and framily who call my antics what they are. These people have earned the right to have that authority in my life. Sometimes the truth hurts, but when spoken in love, gentleness, and respect and points towards a life free from our own dumbassery-the pain is worth the life that follows.
Living well is hard work. Let’s get on it with humor, community, and derring do.
And laughter. Lots of laughter.